Head Congestion

Contrary to popular belief the sinuses don’t just serve to cause you irritation and discomfort every time you have sinus infection! Every time you breathe, it is the task of the sinuses to filter the air along with warming and moistening it to allow for proper circulation. There are four pairs of para-nasal sinuses located above the eyes, in the cheekbones under your eyes, between the eyes and nose, and in the center of the head behind the eyes and nose. Only if all these sinuses are healthy and clear, does the mucus that is built up during breathing get to drain normally. When any of the sinuses get blocked and clogged due to allergies, pollution or medication, they are unable to function properly. This leads to head congestion or nasal congestion. Head congestion is normally a short-term problem for most people and occurs due to a number of reasons.

Symptoms of Head Congestion

Head congestion is a broad term that covers a number of symptoms that range in severity and duration. These include:

  • Cough – When sinusitis causes head congestion, you may experience bouts of coughing that can worsen at night. Coughing due to head congestion can result in a mucus-filled cough that can lead discomfort and a sore throat. A heavy chest often accompanies this type of cough.
  • Sore Throat – As the mucus from the nasal passages moves through the throat, you may develop a sore throat. This can prevent you from eating normally as there is a difficulty in swallowing foods and liquids. Hot water gargles can help relieve this discomfort. Babies and young children with head congestion and sore throats may refuse to nurse.
  • Breathing Difficulties – With your sinuses blocked, breathing becomes difficult and labored. Even after blowing your nose, the nostrils stay clogged and breathing through your nose becomes impossible. This forces you to breathe through your mouth instead. This can also affect your appetite and your taste of food.
  • Earaches – If you suffer from chronic head congestion, you may develop a earache as well. This happens when there is an infection in the sinuses and can cause problems with hearing. Earaches are common to babies and young children and require medical attention.
  • Headache – Head congestion is synonymous with a headache. This can affect both sides of the head as well as the temples and contributes to the ‘heavy head’ feeling, symptomatic of this condition. If your head congestion is caused by a viral infection, the headache tends to be worse. Rest and steam inhalations may offer some relief from the pain.
  • Pain – Head congestion causes pain not just in the head, but also along the nose, cheeks and forehead. Your face may even become puffy and swollen and be sore to the touch. You can get some relief from the pain by applying a warm compress to the affected areas, or by taking an over-the-counter pain medication if suggested by your doctor.

Causes for Head Congestion

Head congestion can be caused by a number of reasons. Your symptoms will give your doctor an idea of what the root cause may be. The most common cause for head congestion is influenza or the common cold. In such cases, head congestion is one of the symptoms of the cold or flu. Allergies to dust, chemicals and even certain types of food can aggravate your sinuses. While many people believe that allergies are largely airborne, in a large percentage of cases, the culprit is a particular food or food group. Keeping a food diary will give you a clear idea of what foods trigger off an attack and which ones cause an adverse reaction. In this way, you can rule out other food suspects and avoid only the ones that cause the allergies. Physical problems such as a deviated septum can lead to chronic sinusitis. Persistent blockage of the sinuses may also need medical intervention. Your doctor will order a CT scan or an MRI to determine the blockage before recommending the proper course of action. Certain medications can also result in sinusitis. If you develop a yellow or greenish discharge from your nose, this indicates an infection and can cause head congestion as well. Lack of sleep, dehydration, too much caffeine, and a lack of regular exercise can also result in head congestion. Recent research shows that there is a connection between head congestion and gastroesophageal reflux. In some cases, the acidity and reflux can be so severe that the nasal area and sinuses are affected causing congestion and other symptoms.

Remedies for Head Congestion

Irrespective of whether your head congestion is caused by an infection, an illness, allergies, or medications, the sinuses and nasal passages become inflamed and swollen as the blood vessels expand. This causes the acute discomfort and pain associated with head congestion. The overproduction of mucus is a side effect of the irritation of the nasal passages and can add to the unpleasant symptoms that develop along with head congestion. For head congestion relief you can try an over-the-counter decongestant. Nasal sprays and other such medications can reduce the inflammation of the nasal passages, but should not be used for more than three days at a time. Overuse of decongestants can aggravate symptoms and cause more problems in the long run. Antihistamines or anti-allergy drugs will reduce the production of mucus and dry mucus, reducing blockages and congestion. You need to exercise caution when using antihistamines however, as they can cause sleepiness and affect your work and driving abilities. There are also a number of home remedies for sinus congestion that you can use to relieve the symptoms:

  • A humidifier can be very helpful when you suffer from congestion, especially when you sleep at night. As with any air purifying, heating or cooling device you need to make sure it is cleaned regularly to avoid the risk of any natural build up of bacteria that may worsen your infection or expose you to another.
  • You can ease congestion when you sleep by propping yourself up on several pillows, as lying down flat can put too much pressure on the sinus and increase pressure on the head. Specially created nasal adhesive strips can reduce nasal congestion as well.
  • Use a homemade solution of eight ounces of warm water mixed with half a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking soda to flush the mucus from your nose. Saline drops can also cure a sore throat and heal inflamed nasal passageways. Such saline solutions are also available commercially.
  • Try and avoid any known food allergens, polluted areas, dust and other triggers. Strong smells like perfumes and smoke can also aggravate the symptoms. Try and keep your home smoke free and stay away from smoke filled bars and cafes.
  • Steam inhalation with a bowl of hot water or a hot shower can clear the extra mucus and relieve head congestion. Do this several times a day for fast results. You can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to improve the efficacy of the steam inhalations.
  • Another home remedy for head congestion is using garlic either in its raw or chopped form. Due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties garlic can offer a lot of relief for symptoms of colds and sinusitis.
  • Aromatherapy oils can also help reduce some of the symptoms.
  • Drink a lot of herbal tea with honey and clear chicken broth to prevent dizziness and to relieve congestion. Zinc lozenges can reduce the symptoms of a cough and cold if they get too unbearable.

While the effectiveness of most home remedies can vary, and they are often not backed by adequate research, most home treatments for congestion are quite effective. Head congestion resulting from a bacterial infection or some other health condition would require medical attention, but home remedies are a valuable aid, particularly when dealing with mild viral infections.

Diet for Head Congestion

When suffering from head congestion and sinusitis, a diet rich in vitamin C can help matters considerably. Vitamin C boosts immunity and helps your body fight an infection. A high intake of vitamin C through your diet or with supplements can help prevent you from falling sick often and catching a common cold and other illnesses. Sinusitis demands a greater intake of fluids to offset dehydration. Fluids such as fresh fruit juices, herbal teas, clear soups, and water help flush out the phlegm in the sinuses and make it thinner and easier to expel. Minerals such as zinc increase immunity as well, and reduce inflammation of the nasal passages. Increase your intake of Omega 3 fatty acids by eating foods such as fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, and fish oil supplements to prevent allergies from developing.

Suggestion for Head Congestion

Acupuncture has been suggested as an alternative treatment for head congestion. Acupuncture can boost immunity and treat a number of medical conditions with the least amount of side effects and complications. Most research into the discipline is inconclusive however.

If you suffer from head congestion for more than a week, consult with your doctor to get to the root of the problem. While not a serious condition, the symptoms of head congestion can be debilitating and interfere with your daily work and routine.

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